Opera Scotland

Bolshoi Opera, Moscow Suggest updates

In 1990, Glasgow was, to the surprise of many, granted the title European Capital of Culture. An enterprising of events was programmed, centred on the long overdue construction of a new large-scale concert hall (nearly thirty years since the last one hand burnt down. Perhaps the most enterprising event, however, was the import of the Bolshoi Opera from Moscow. This was a real coup for the city, since the company had not visited Scotland before, and it required the construction of a temporary venue in the enormous Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre on the banks of the Clyde. The project was an outstanding success, and two rarities by Rimsky-Korsakov and Tchaikovsky were played to enormous audiences.

The company then moved to the Edinburgh Festival, where an equally rare Prokofiev comedy was mounted at the Playhouse. The following year, as tanks rumbled through the streets of Moscow and a coup (of a very different kind) was narrowly averted, the company returned with two more operas, one popular hit and a fourth rarity. The ovation before the start of that first Onegin performance was a highly emotional experience for everyone in the packed out Playhouse.

The positive outcomes from these visits were twofold, in that firstly the Bolshoi's conductor, Alexander Lazarev, became a surprise appointment soon afterwards to lead the Royal Scottish National Orchestra - a move that led to many memorable concerts, though he did not appear in opera again. That opportunity passed to the other major Russian company, the Kirov Opera of Leningrad, and conductor Valery Gergiev, who became regular visitors to the Edinburgh Festival in future years.

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